Bishop Morlino and the Mystery of Madison
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 03:41:09 PM EST
Catholic social teaching  has recognized the right of workers to organize since Pope Leo XIII's 1891papal encyclical Rerum Novarum.  This was soon followed by the the American bishops' groundbreaking Bishops' Program of Social Reconstruction (ghostwritten for them by Monsignor John A. Ryan). The bishops declared that they recognized "the right of labor to organize; and to deal with employers through its chosen representatives..."

Unsurprisingly, Catholics in America have long been front and center in organized labor, from the old Knights of Labor; the Italian seamstresses of the ILGWU to  Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers, and Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO. The rights and well being of working people is unquestionably a Catholic issue.

That is why the silence of Bishop Robert Morlino Madison, Wisconsin -- except to call for neutrality as public employees struggle to maintain the right to collectively bargain -- has been a mystery.

Morlino's stance contrasts sharply with the statement from Jerome E. Listecki, the Archbishop of Milwaukee,  Listecki issued a statement that quoted directly from the recent papal encyclical (which had been criticized by Catholic conservatives such as George Weigel): Caritas in veritate:

The repeated calls issued within the Church's social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum [60], for the promotion of workers' associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honored today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level

A similar statement of support was issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

But Bishop Morlino framed his  statement differently.  Entitled "Clarifying the Fairness Issue," he stressed taking "a neutral stance." .

As if on cue, the Catholic Right spin machine kicked into high gear. Father Robert Sirico, head of the Acton Institute joined in Morlino's wet blanket brigade, claiming: "As the social-teaching tradition has stated consistently, the Church has not (sic) specific economic or political policy prescriptions to offer."

Piet Levy, a writer for Religion News Service saw the situation clearly.  In an article entitled, "Wisconsin Dispute Exposes Catholic Split on Unions," Levy  wrote:  

Morlino, writing in his diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Herald, said he and the statewide Wisconsin Catholic Conference were neutral, even though the Catholic Church has long sided with the rights of unionized workers.

Levy noted Morlino's standing among the Catholic Right:

To be sure, Morlino has emerged as a hero of the Catholic right. In the heat of the 2008 campaign, he blasted vice presidential nominee Joe Biden and then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi for "stepping on the pope's turf -- and mine" in appealing to church fathers for their support of abortion rights.

In 2009, Morlino fired a female church worker for using male and female imagery for God in her 2003 Master's thesis.

Levy also cited Marquette University political science professor Michael Fleet's critique of the bishop's motives:

"Obviously (Morlino) wouldn't have written (his letter) unless some clarification or reframing was necessary," he said. "If you think about it, Morlino would write a short letter if he agreed with Listecki, but he wrote a longer letter articulating how (Listecki's statement) should be understood."

In his "clarifying" statement Morlino commented, "Believe it or not, I frequently try to avoid weighing in-on certain situations."  (That statement is more laughable than he could have ever imagined.)

The mystery of Madison lingered until the publication of an interview with Fr. Sirico revealed what may really be going on:  

Father Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, a free-market think tank, suggested that the bishops' response to the union protests marked a new era of episcopal leadership and a more nuanced understanding of economic realities in the United States.

He noted that both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had sought to reorient an overly politicized approach to social justice concerns and that new Catholic leaders had responded to this new direction. "Politics is not the governing hermeneutic of the Church," said Father Sirico, "but for many years politics was the whole paradigm through which everything was seen."

But he also suggested the Wisconsin bishops' stance implicitly acknowledged "the changing reality of the American Catholic population as a whole. "The only sector of union membership that is growing is public unions," he said. "That is highly problematic from a Catholic point of view, because these public unions publicly favor abortion rights and 'gay marriage' and seek to undercut the Church's agenda on social questions." [my emphasis in bold]


If what Sirico is saying is, in fact, the reason for Morino's stance, it may be first time union busting has been promoted in the service of anti-abortionism and opposition to gay rights.

While Archbishop Listecki and the other members of the US Catholic Conference of Bishops are certainly anti-abortion, Morlino and Sirico are willing to sacrifice the well being of fellow Catholics and all other workers in order to win their culture war. And if the right for public workers to collectively bargain is ultimately destroyed, it is because a highly attenuated reading of Catholic theology has been employed to serve mammon and not God.

Sirico wants labor crushed and the culture wars expanded.: Gov. Walker is intent on granting him both wishes.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 03:45:28 PM EST
I strongly suspect Morlino is more interested in trashing public unions because a high percentage of the members are teachers. Morlino has a much higher vested interest in keeping unions and their thoughts about collective bargaining out of the Catholic school system. Abortion is just an excuse, like it's become an excuse for all kinds of other right wing meddling by our bishops.

by colkoch on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 08:17:14 PM EST

Listecki's and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' statements were lukewarm lipservice only meant to give the appearance of the U.S. episcopate as being "non-partisan." No U.S. prelate is going to put the political and financial muscle into supporting unions which they so abundantly gave to defeating the health care bill or gay marriage legislations. As khughes63 noted, the "big money boyz" wouldn't like it.

by Betty Clermont on Fri Mar 18, 2011 at 12:56:19 PM EST

He depends on the big money boyz to finance him, and his desired cathedral, and doesn't want to bite the hand that feeds him. Besides, Morlino and the bishops may be able to hold onto their political and religious clout and "win" their culture war, but they have already lost by failing to support working people, and no amount of support for Catholic and Protestant religious right luminaries will recover their lost moral authority due to their concealment of sexual abuse.

by khughes1963 on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 11:05:24 PM EST

I remember a former Archbishop of Los Angeles who would not allow the workers at Catholic cemetaries to form a union. This flew in the face of Rerum Novarum, which he evidently had not read.
If public workers unions survive, then maybe, just maybe, other unions might rise again. Let's hope so!

by rdrjames on Sun Mar 20, 2011 at 11:26:36 PM EST

WWW Talk To Action

Northwest Arkansas, A Hotbed for Anti-Semitism
Three organizations in Northwest Arkansas are deeply interwoven into the most rabid Anti-Semitic teachings in the nation.  Gerald Smith, buried at the base of......
By wilkyjr (4 comments)
Joseph Cella is Back - Taking the Opposite Tack from Pope Francis
Joseph J. Cella has had a change of heart since he joined with those conservative Catholic activists who signed a declaration during the Republican......
By Frank Cocozzelli (5 comments)
Radcliffe Sucker Punched by Right-Wing Propagandists
The prestigious Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard College will host a panel on Monday, Oct 17, titled "Righting the Record: Conservatism and......
By Chip Berlet (1 comment)
Celebrating Banned Books Week
Banned Books Week is the venerable annual celebration of the right to read and the highlighting of efforts by cultural vigilantes of various sorts......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Birthers, Birchers and Lee Harvey Oswald
"It would be more accurate to say that Oswald was his own agent, that he was moved to act by dint of his own......
By wilkyjr (4 comments)
Are Civil Rights and Religious Liberty Mutually Exclusive?
The question posed in the title might seem merely rhetorical:  but its not.  All sides, not to mention the media, often frame contemporary controversies......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
The Final Repudiation Of Phyllis Schlafly
Monday night around 9:40 I received an email with a curious subject line. "The Greatest American Woman, R.I.P.," it read. "Who could that be?"......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Is This the Dawning of the Age of Vulgar Demagoguery?
Before the end of GOP primaries, I wrote about how Catholic neo-conservatives couldn't bring themselves to support Donald Trump. Even now that he is......
By Frank Cocozzelli (5 comments)
Getting the Low Down on Dominionism
I am pleased to report that the task of getting the low down on dominionism may be becoming easier for scholars, journalists and activists.......
By Frederick Clarkson (4 comments)
Dominionism Hiding in Plain Sight
Dominionism has been an evolving movement for a half century. Fed by two main streams, it has becoming a roaring current, tearing through American......
By Frederick Clarkson (9 comments)
Chancy Combo: Why The Founders Were Not Fans Of Preacher-Politicians
Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has vowed to repeal a federal law that bars houses of worship (and other tax-exempt non-profits) from endorsing......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Beware The Gender Unicorn: Franklin Graham Takes Aim At The Transgender Community
Part of my job involves monitoring the activities of Religious Right groups, which means every day my email box receives messages from groups like......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
The Politics of Fear
Joseph Ellsworth McWilliams was born on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma.  He moved to New York City and became a Communist.  Later on he......
By wilkyjr (3 comments)
Persecution-Free Park: Religious Freedom Still Not Under Attack In America
I just got back from a week-long vacation with my wife and son. We were in Acadia National Park in Maine.On our second day......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
Mike Pence and The Roots of the Right-Wing "Political Correctness" Conspiracy Theory
The term "Political Correctness" was hijacked by right-wing ideologues in the late 1980s to trivialize and disparage concern for basic human rights for people......
By Chip Berlet (4 comments)

Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (2 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (4 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (0 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (13 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (4 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (5 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (1 comment)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (1 comment)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (2 comments)
Evangelicals Seduced By Ayn Rand Worship Crypto-Satanism, Suggest Scholars
[update: also see my closely related stories, "Crypto-Cultists" and "Cranks": The Video Paul Ryan Hoped Would Go Away, and The Paul Ryan/Ayn Rand/Satanism Connection Made Simple] "I give people Ayn Rand with trappings" -......
Bruce Wilson (10 comments)
Ted Cruz Anointed By Pastor Who Says Jesus Opposed Minimum Wage, and Constitution Based on the Bible
In the video below, from a July 19-20th, 2013 pastor's rally at a Marriott Hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, Tea Party potentate Ted Cruz is blessed by religious right leader David Barton, who claims......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Galt and God: Ayn Randians and Christian Rightists Expand Ties
Ayn Rand's followers find themselves sharing a lot of common ground with the Christian Right these days. The Tea Party, with its stress on righteous liberty and a robust form of capitalism, has been......
JSanford (3 comments)
Witchhunts in Africa and the U.S.A.
Nigerian human rights activist Leo Igwe has recently written at least two blog posts about how some African Pentecostal churches are sending missionaries to Europe and the U.S.A. in an attempt to "re-evangelize the......
Diane Vera (2 comments)
Charles Taze Russell and John Hagee
No doubt exists that Texas mega-church Pastor John Hagee would be loathe to be associated with the theology of Pastor C.T. Russell (wrongly credited with founding the Jehovah's Witnesses) but their theological orbits, while......
COinMS (0 comments)
A death among the common people ... imagination.
Or maybe my title would better fit as “Laws, Books, where to find, and the people who trust them.”What a society we've become!The wise ones tell us over and over how the more things......
Arthur Ruger (2 comments)

More Diaries...

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.